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Let’s rise to the High Speed 2 challenge

Nelson Ogunshakin

This vital rail link will support and spur economic growth.

As a regular traveller between the first and second largest cities of the UK (London and Birmingham) over the last 10 years, I have noticed the improvements that have taken place on the rail network. The upgrades to the West Coast Main Line and Chiltern Line are bringing faster journeys, better passenger facilities and more capacity.

Upgrades to the current inter-city network are vital, but this is not enough if the UK is to be well positioned in the ever increasing global market. There are more than 1.3bn passenger journeys on our network each year, and this number has grown steadily since the low point of the early 1980s.

Despite the current economic pressures, we must continue to look to the long-term future of the network. High Speed 2 (HS2) is part of that long-term vision which needs to be realised without further delay.

Industry is pleased to see broad cross-party support for HS2. The House of Commons Transport Select Committee reported that no alternative to HS2 offered the required increase in rail capacity, and there is general agreement that the project will pay economic dividends.

There is also the potential to realise greater economic benefits if the HS2 corridor can also integrate high value added multi-purpose utility services. We hope this will see challenges and public concerns resolved quickly and constructively so as to get the project underway without undue delay.

The news that the UK may technically be in recession again should add impetus to these long-term plans rather than detracting from them. We know that good transport links are vital in making the UK competitive internationally. Good infrastructure supports and spurs growth.

I am sure that HS2 can make a significant contribution to boosting the UK’s economic prospects, alongside upgrades to conventional rail, road networks and other supporting infrastructure.

HS2 is also a golden opportunity for the engineering industry to demonstrate its best - to deliver a world-class railway programme that represents excellent value for money. The lessons of the West Coast Main Line upgrades must be learned in order to avoid costly overruns. The procurement process adopted for the recently completedOlympic facilities provides an opportunity to leverage on.

Successful delivery of HS2 to time, quality and budget is a challenge to which I am confident the UK engineering sector will rise.

  • Nelson Ogunshakin is chief executive of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering

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